Pseudo Recaps: 2020 Cal vs. UNLV and 2006 Cal vs. UCLA
Recapping our simmed college football season opener and a classic from the past.
Happy Monday, Cal fans! Or, at least, it’s a Monday. If we were living in a normal world, you’d be reading a recap of Cal’s season opener against UNLV. Sadly, that’s not our reality.
As discussed last week, we’re trying a few different things to have fun during this decidedly un-fun period of time. Hopefully you enjoyed our first edition of Trivia Thursday and Rob’s interview with Chase Garbers (First in a series with the entire team!)
Meanwhile, we’re simming the 2020-season-that-would-have-been. If that’s your type of fun, please enjoy my recap of game 1 below. If College Football Meal Replacement isn’t your thing, scroll on down and enjoy my retro live-blog of the 2006 UCLA game, which you can watch while reading if you so desire.
Stay safe Bears, we’ll get sports back eventually. Or, so I assume.
2020 Cal at UNLV: NCAA simulation recap
I doubt Justin Wilcox envisioned three horrible mental errors to put the Bears behind the eight ball so quickly to start the 2020 season. But one bad decision from Chase Garbers and two blown coverage from an otherwise veteran secondary put the Bears immediately behind 21-3 after a quarter and change, and on upset alert on the road.
But while many teams would wilt falling behind by 18 points so quickly, the Wilcox Bears are made of sterner stuff. Chase Garbers led the Bears quickly down the field for a touchdown behind a series of downfield throws over the middle, and the Cal secondary rebounded when Chigozie Anusiem came up with a huge pick 6 inside UNLV territory. Just as quickly as the Bears fell behind, they cut the deficit back to just 4 points.
After that flurry of long touchdowns and pick 6s, the game settled down and stayed 21-17 until about midway through the 3rd quarter, when the Bears went on a long drive to take their first lead of the game, 24-21.
UNLV managed to bounce back with a solid field goal drive, but by now the Bears were rolling, scoring two straight touchdowns before an entirely academic last second touchdown kept the score cosmetically better for the Rebels.
Is it great that Cal fell behind by 18? Nah. But you’re going to win lots of games that feature a 38-3 scoring run in the middle.
Notes and errata
Some may find it odd that Armani Rodgers and Luc Bequette were playing for UNLV and Cal rather than Arkansas St. and Boston College, but I like the video game universe better than real life.
This was a particularly conservative performance from Justin Wilcox and his coaching staff. Calling a draw play on 3rd and 8 in the red zone wasn’t great, nor was electing to punt from midfield on 4th and 2. That decision only netted about 30 yards of field position when the ball bounced into the end zone. In this case, real Wilcox gets my pick.
The story of the game? Eight total Cal sacks plus two other tackles for loss. While Rodgers and the UNLV offense found success early, the Cal pass rush got into his head and the UNLV offense did very little until garbage time. Those 8 sacks were critical to end a few different drives. Compare that with just two UNLV sacks and you can see how Cal’s superior talent came into play.
Kudos to the coaching staff for enforcing social distancing rules on the sideline. Look at all of these Bears maintaining space between each other to minimize the chance of spreading COVID:
The game announcers questionably stated that ‘The Princess Diaries’ is peak Anne Hathaway, when everybody knows that ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is the correct answer.
It ended up not mattering, but UNLV picking up a delay of game after the quarter break while in field goal formation was one of the most shocking game management screw ups I’ve ever seen. Between that and punting the ball away down 7 points with less than 4 minutes to go in the 4th I have some serious doubts about the UNLV coaching staff.
The new look Cal offense was a weird mix of west coast and spread concepts, with tons of short slants and screens mixed in with tons of shotgun and more than a little option. Will this style of offense stand up against stiffer competition? Stay tuned!
2006 Cal vs. UCLA retro liveblog
How do you know you’re in for an entertaining Cal/UCLA game? When ABC uses this image in their pre-game intro:
The game begins with ABC’s sideline reporter getting rolled up the student section, a tradition that kinda died during the Dykes era thanks to low attendance. Sigh.
Marshawn gets an early carry, and there’s a murmur from the crowd just on the hand off, before a bigger cheer when he hits a gap in the line. Damn did we love watching him play. And most importantly, this game debuted an iconic infographic:
Nate Longshore finds DeSean Jackson over the middle. Cal got so many easy catches on shorter routes against CBs who gave Jackson a gigantic cushion because they were rightfully terrified of getting torched by him over the top.
A long, 6 minute drive ends with a slant touchdown to Robert Jordan for the touchdown. A classic peak Tedford drive mixing the run and the pass with solid 10 yard chunk plays all over the place. UCLA actually had a decent defense in 2006, but they didn’t look it there.
Usually UCLA has some names I recognize because they usually have some guys who have solid pro careers, but there’s nobody memorable on this UCLA offense. Pat Cowan actually looks pretty legit on the first drive, but penalties, WR drops, and a missed 39 yard field goal result in zero points on their first drive.
Important update from around the conference:
Cal tries to set up DeSean Jackson to pass the ball on a trick play, but instead he pulls the ball and turns the play into a sort of punt return for 10 yards. Sadly, I don’t think Cal ever had DeSean throw an actual pass. Missed opportunity.
4th and 3, and Tedford gonna Tedford - rather than give the ball to his dynamite offense, he has Tom Schneider try a career long 52 yard attempt that goes wide right.
Patrick Cowan was, by any metric, a fairly forgettable Pac-12 quarterback, but he came out playing really well in this game, and ties it up at 7 on a pretty nifty option keeper.
Another methodical drive from the Bears, before Marshawn makes a tough catch on a screen in all kinds of traffic, makes a brilliant cut to his right, and zig-zags 24 yards into the end zone to make it 14-7. Damn was his vision and sense of space something special.
Man, Cowan (career 53% completion rate, 6 yards/attempt) is slinging it. He nails a receiver on a 30 yard seam route, and UCLA has first and goal. But Cal’s defense stiffens, Daymeion Hughes gets a pass break-up, and UCLA cowardly settles for the 21 yard field goal. 14-10 with 3:09 left. Can Cal mount a drive to end the half?
Nope. Cal gets to midfield, but Longshore holds onto the ball way too long and gets smashed from behind and fumbles. UCLA recovers.
Can UCLA capitalize? Cowan makes one nice throw on the run to get into field goal range, and makes another throw on the money . . . but Daymeion Hughes gets a hand in to break up the sure touchdown, and then Cowan makes his first mistake on a play over the middle picked off by Desmond Bishop. Phew. Cal up 14-10 at the half, and maybe the Cal defense has finally woken up after a slow start.
HALFTIME MEMORY LANE
As I was a Cal senior this year, please enjoy the thing I remember most from this game:
Whenever halftime card stunts end, the majority* of the student section hurls their cards in random directions, as gravity slowly sends the cards down towards the field. While some don’t enjoy the chance of randomly getting whacked with heavy-duty card stock, most recognize that this is the price of admission. But occasionally, perhaps when fueled by certain drinks, some take exception to getting hit, and complain.
This is a bad idea. When you’re surrounded by college students with improvised projectiles, don’t make yourself an even bigger target.
During the UCLA game, one such person decided to do exactly that. Which prompted those nearby to aim specifically at him, which only made the target madder. While everybody else sat and enjoyed the Cal band, our belligerent friend decided to shout at anyone and everyone who he perceived as tossing cards at him.
This person also happened to be wearing what appeared to be a light blue tank top. Perhaps even baby blue.
To this day, I don’t know if the fight that broke out was because the angry guy was just that belligerent, or if the fight broke out because equally belligerent Cal students decided he was a UCLA fan who needed to be taught a lesson. All I know is that a solid little drunken donnybrook broke out before stadium security got involved, and our angry, maybe-UCLA fan was no longer in the Cal student section.
I don’t condone what happened that day. But as a person who notices how accommodating the current student section is to red clothing, I will admit that there’s a part of me that misses a vintage Cal student section that took things right to (and occasionally over) the edge.
Your lesson? Wear dark blue, and if you don’t like getting hit with card stock, use your own cards as a shield above your head for a couple minutes.
*The minority turn the cards into jaunty hats!
Cowan hits on another deep ball, perfectly placed just over the hands of Hughes, and UCLA is again in scoring range. But after a false start and a fumbled exchange, UCLA settles for . . . another missed field goal. My memory is that Cal pretty well controlled this game, but as of the early 3rd quarter only two missed field goals from a normally reliable kicker are keeping Cal in the lead.
After a few Marshawn carries get Cal to midfield, Longshore hits Robert Jordan in stride 40 yards downfield for an easy touchdown. To this point Longshore had been understated in his efficiency, hitting a variety of mostly short passes to keep the chains moving, but that throw was authoritative and on the money. 21-10 Bears.
Cowan played out of his mind for about 35 minutes, but he’s finally coming back down to earth. Both teams exchange punts, Cowan misses his target on another pass, UCLA is punting again . . . and Jackson gets his 3rd punt TD of the season to essentially salt the game away, 27-10.
I’d like to wax nostalgic about the return, but this play might be the single best example of how much our view on concussions have changed. At the time, watching from the student section, Thomas DeCoud’s blindside block on Korey Bosworth was just as exciting as the return. Now, watching Bosworth knocked cold, watching UCLA let him attempt to walk off under his own power, watching Bosworth sprawl back onto the turf, watching him again allowed to walk off under his own power . . . you wonder how we were all so naive?
Cowan is rattled, and eventually throws an interception to Hughes, who plays his zone role perfectly, peeling late off of a receiver in the flat to cover a route breaking behind him.
The refs call holding on Alex Mack. I can only assume that they were preposterously incorrect. It doesn’t really matter, because Longshore finds Jackson for a long gain to erase the penalty, and a couple tough Marshawn runs punch the ball into the end zone. The rout is on.
Is there any doubt that drive finishing is kinda important? Cal’s offense has created four scoring opportunities and turned them into 28 points. Meanwhile, UCLA has two missed field goals and two interceptions inside Cal territory. This could have been a close game, but instead it’s 35-10 and we’re playing out the string.
ABC has a video of Jeff Tedford talking about Marshawn’s abilities as a runner. Everything Tedford says is 100% accurate . . . but in true understated Tedfordian style, makes Marshawn sound about as exciting as dry toast. Come on Jeff, hype your man up!
UCLA is forced to go for it on 4th and 1 in their own territory. Cal stacks the line, allowing UCLA to run for the TD when the running back breaks through the line. Ho hum, this is just means the blowout doesn’t look as bad. Dan Fouts asks “Are the Bruins still in it?” I quickly tell him no, no they are not.
Run, fullback swing, run, run, run, run, run, run. Tedford was plenty predictable with a lead, but that didn’t stop Cal from marching down the field behind Marshawn and Justin Forsett. The drive eventually stalls due to penalties, but the clock has been killed.
Fouts discusses Marshawn as a Heisman candidate, then lists a bunch of other candidates who ended up having vastly inferior professional careers. This led me to look up the 2006 Heisman vote, and Marshawn didn’t make the top 10. Lame.
Color man: “You know, this is a good UCLA football team, they’re just a year away.” 2007 UCLA football: 6-7. As Cal kicks an academic field goal, I’m left to ponder the idea that Karl Dorrell is back coaching in the Pac-12.
UCLA goes on a long, pointless touchdown drive. They finally score with 1:18 left on the clock to cut the deficit from 21 to 14. Cal kills off the clock after recovering the onside kick. Moral victory: earned. Bruins Nation headlines in the week after this game? D I S G R A C E, A Pathetic Loser (or a Liar?) and A sad and sorry joke. Miss u Nestor.